Lightroom: Whites slider in Basic Panel affects yellow colors way too much

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  • Problem
  • Updated 10 months ago
  • (Edited)
I process product photography shots on a white sweep and need to blow out the backgrounds. Most items behave themselves when I increase the Whites value, the background clips and the product itself remains relatively unchanged. But if there's anything with saturated yellows in it the Whites slider destroys them. The magenta gets blown away and it turns into a featureless yellow mass. I really would like Whites to affect neutral tones, not highly saturated ones. I am sure there is a good reason for this behavior in other types of images, but the yellow train cars I work on have to be manually futzed with to isolate whites and yellows.

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Nathan Marciniak

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  • Frustrated

Posted 10 months ago

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Rikk Flohr, Official Rep

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Have you tried using a Tone Curve adjustment like this to move your whites first - then adjust your subject from there? 


You may get much better results with this than just using the Whites slider.
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Marc Geuzinge

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Hi Nathan, I get your frustration, (I do macrophotography of coloured crystals on black and white backgrounds). Here's 2 workarounds that work for me; 1) Getting the exposure right in the first place by deliberately overexposing the image slightly and then adjusting the object downwards using a mask over the white area (takes practice not to blow out the object) and 2:) using the local adjustment brush over the object, inverting the mask and increase the white area as needed. 
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Nathan Marciniak

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Adjusting them manually is no problem, I use the Adjustment Brush with Auto Mask; but my goal is in theory to not have to do that, for a global whites adjustment preset to work with as many different images as possible.
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Nathan Marciniak

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I will try that, Rikk. I assumed the "whites" adjustment came before the tone curve and that this control was doing some sort of smart masking\isolation behind the scenes as opposed to clipping all the pixels as with levels\curves. I don't usually touch the curves in Lightroom, I try to make presets that are going to work with as many images as possible so that I don't have to adjust individual ones and usually the only troublemakers are the ones with yellow paint.

I am resigned to manually working with the light grey and white products, but the yellows annoy me cause they're 'not white' in my mind. They are 'white' on the red and green channel I guess, but a midtone or shadow on the blue.
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Todd Shaner, Champion

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The issue is that the Red channel in the locomotive Yellow color is near clipping. The Whites slider affects a region that includes the Red channel in the Yellow color. Hover the mouse cursor in the LR Histogram around the highlight end-point to see the region affected by the Whites slider.

You can use the Tone Curve as suggested by Rikk Flohr, but not by simply moving the Highlight end point. Create a custom Tone curve by holding down the ALT key and applying multiple points directly on the linear curve as shown below. Keep the points at the highlight end of the curve closer together and then drag the last point (94.5) up to 100. You're limited to 16 points including the end-points. Click the double-arrow as shown below and 'Save' the Tone Curve with a unique name (Example-Highlight Clip 94.5).